My Life in Wrestling

My Life in Wrestling – “Playboy” Gary Hart

Gary Hart’s My Life in Wrestling is the white whale of wrestling memoirs. Long since out of print, hardcover copies go easily for over a grand on the secondary market. Given that I was never, ever going to pay that much for any book let alone this one, I just assumed I would never get a chance to read one of wrestling’s great books. Then, out of the blue, a friend messaged me to let me know he had a copy I could borrow and we were off to the races.

Gary Hart is a man who – albeit for one night – spent his entire career outside of Vince McMahon’s WWF, so that alone immediately attracted me to his story. It’s not often you get to experience the life story of someone involved in the wrestling business who did not work for Vince – especially during the 80s where seemingly every man and woman jumped ship from their respective promotions to be a part of McMahon’s growing empire.

Beginning as a wrestler, Gary made his way around the territorial system in the 1960s before he would eventually settle into an on-screen managerial role. This is where Gary would find his true passion in the wrestling business. Gary would create characters and use those characters to develop talent who could then work all over the United States and beyond. Gary is credited with introducing and developing such legendary characters as Pak Song Nam, The Spoiler, The Great Kabuki, The Great Muta, The One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Gino Hernandez, The Ultimate Warrior, Al Perez, and a veritable rogue’s gallery of villains.

While Gary’s work as a manager and talent developer would already be enough to secure a spot in any wrestling Hall of Fame, his legacy as the booker (or match-maker) for Fritz Von Erich’s Dallas territory is arguably his finest work. WCCW (World Class Championship Wrestling) as it came to be known, was one of the hottest promotions outside of the World Wrestling Federation in the mid-80s. It’s credited with introducing entrance music to go along with wrestler introductions as well as off-site recorded vignettes used to further expand on rivalries and character work.

Gary talks about his work in positioning Fritz’s sons (the Von Erich boys) as must-see talents who would draw thousands to shows every week. His landmark storyline involving The Von Erichs against The Fabulous Freebirds would go on to carry the promotion for years after Gary had left to work for Jim Crockett Promotions in the Carolinas.

Gary certainly has no shortage of things to talk about – both triumphant and tragic – but the one thing that puts the book above so many other wrestling memoirs is that you really get a feel for Gary’s voice. Hart isn’t here to pull punches or save face – if he didn’t like you or thought an idea was of little value, he is not shy about letting you know. He doesn’t spend the whole book trashing people but he certainly has an axe to grind regarding a few prominent figures. While Gary is certainly not alone is his disdain for wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, his hatred for Sting completely threw me for a loop as Sting is generally a guy not many people seem to have a negative thing to say about.

I am so happy that I was able to read Gary Hart’s book. I worried that it could not possibly live up to the hype and that ultimately, I would be disappointed. Like the long-lost match between Bret Hart and Tom MaGee that was unearthed a few years ago. It was almost better left to your imagination. That is not the case here. Gary Hart’s My Life In Wrestling has a permanent spot in my upper-echelon of wrestling memoirs.

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